FIRE, PHOSPHENE & AFRICAN TRADITIONBy Amadou DIOP (a phosphenist based in Senegal)
For the whole of humanity, fire was a major discovery, that first took place in the land of Africa.
The utilization of fire has considerably improved the lifestyle of human beings, particularly in the African continent.
Some countries in Africa have known and used fire for long periods of their history.
In the beginning, fire helped trigger the transformation from ‟savage” to ‟human” check ‟genesis” for more information. Though, in ancient times, fire was used mainly for cooking, it was also used a lot for lighting.
The Communities have organized their systems of education in adaptation to the context they were in, serving the objectives of the transmission of knowledge and the sustainability of an original, recognized and dynamic civilization.
In every house, it is around the fire that the Oral Tradition has formed its Teaching System. Evening classes gave the opportunity to peerless Teachers to use carefully chosen words to create sounds, images, which, associated to the light of the bright flames, would durably be engraved in the memory of the learners and accompanied them in their somnolence and their deep sleep.
The learners would wake up the next day, having internalized a considerable ancestral knowledge, a remarkable know-how and a sense of measured social behavior.
Light that shines from the fire, associated to the image created by the Master would blend into each other to produce a phosphene, attracting the children’s attention and rendering them able to memorize vast domains of the oral and traditional African tradition.
Beyond the cognitive, knowledge spreads to psychomotivity and influences the attitudes towards the members of the Community and to the Environment.
Though oral teaching is still very important, the fact remains that the written word has also known its golden age, by producing countless veteran learners, coming from schools of fire.
In Africa, the schools of fire constitute a very common practice, popular and efficient that is still practiced in the villages.
At dusk and before dawn, a circle of learners surrounds the fire and starts a cacophonous performance, as each student recites, in a loud voice, the particular lesson that he or she is learning, from a sculpted plank of wood, filled with writings in black ink.
With its very good rhythm, the cacophony lets also appear sounds as varied as the voices that rise in the night, during which light streams out, is associated to the images and to the sounds and produces miracles; as, after many years, cohorts of learners progress in their training in education. The learners develop prodigious capacities of memorization, become teachers to perpetuate the tradition and watch over the younger initiates.
The learners overcome important challenges and themselves become masters, recognized by all, their peers included.
In spite of a very fast process of urbanization of Africa, these practices still remain effective, particularly in the most rural areas.
In Africa, the schools of fire are an undisputed reality that handsomely contributes to driving back the bounds of ignorance and to favor the blooming of many well-trained youths, able to face the new challenges that Africa must take up. No doubt that the practice of Phosphenic Mixing will contribute to that.